Changes underway in the Department of Defense
billions of dollars while transforming the way the Government
and the commercial sector exchange logistics-related information.
Few mid- and high-grade military or civilian
logisticians spend time loading or unloading trucks, operating
materials-handling equipment, or physically handling supplies
these days. Instead, they focus most of their efforts on
managing information pertaining to supplies. With this in
mind, think of all the time logisticians have spent over
the years looking up codes, determining addresses, handwriting
or keypunching data, or supervising those who perform these
tasks. Throughout the Department of Defense (DOD), an enormous
amount of time is spent accomplishing these information management
functions and correcting human errors. Fortunately, real
transformational change is underway that is reducing this
Although their efforts are unheralded, DOD and the commercial sector have initiated
improvements to logistics data processing methods within the last few years that
have saved billions of dollars. These improvements simultaneously have transformed
the methods the Government and the commercial sector use to exchange business-related
information. Just as automatic identification technologies (AITs), such as magnetic
strips, optical memory cards, radio frequency identification tags, and linear
and two-dimensional bar code devices, have transformed the transport of supplies
and equipment, the use of standard data “transaction sets” has greatly
improved efficiency in transferring, receiving, and processing logistics-related
information. The DOD legacy information systems, many of which use unique computer
applications and telecommunications protocols, are transitioning to systems that
incorporate evolving commercial practices and standards. This is fostering enhanced
interoperability among the services and among DOD, other Federal agencies, and
the commercial sector on a worldwide scale.
Basics of DOD Information Processing
In the past, DOD’s logistics information system was based on the use of
the 80-column punch card that debuted in the early 1960s. Each card contained
information about one transaction. Since only 80 characters could be placed on
a card, almost all
logistics-related information had to be coded. The first three characters—card
columns 1, 2, and 3—formed the document identifier code (DIC). This codeset
the stage for the type of logistics information contained on the card or, in
other words, the type of transaction. The DIC and many other aspects of the 80-column
card format are still in use today. Just as there are myriad types of logistics
transactions, there are over 1,000 different DICs to identify them. The chart
above lists some DICs that are familiar to most tactical-level logisticians.
changes are underway to reduce further the time required
to get needed parts into the hands of the warfighter.
At right, a soldier in the 201st Battalion, 3d Brigade,
1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), in Vilseck, Germany,
organizes parts destined for a supply support activity
|TYPE OF TRANSACTION
|| Requisition for domestic shipment with
NSN (national stock number) or NATO (North Atlantic Treaty
Organization) stock number.
||Cancellation by requisitioner.
|| Supply status to requisitioner.
|| Customer report of available excess.
|| Intransit data prepared by shipping
activities showing data on Government bill of lading shipments
within the continental United States (CONUS) and overseas
intratheater and retrograde shipments.
|| Intransit data prepared by the Air
Mobility Command’s (AMC’s) air port of debarkation
(APOD) showing the hour and day a shipment is received
at an APOD and forwarded to the ultimate consignee.
|| Intransit data prepared by Headquarters
AMC or the Military Sealift Command’s (MSC’s)
Ocean Cargo Clearance Authority (OCCA) showing the hour
and day each export shipment unit is received or lifted
from CONUS by AMC or MSC. The OCCA entries include the
date of overseas vessel discharge.
The DIC determines the types of information contained
in the other 77 card column positions, so the DIC must be known
before the codes used in the other columns can be chosen or
interpreted. In addition to the DIC, two other codes are of
special importance: the DOD activity address code (DODAAC)
and the routing identifier code (RIC).
The six-character DODAAC codifies the name of the organization (or the activity)
that is requisitioning an item, will receive the item, will receive the status
of the item, or will pay for the item. Most organizations that have a DODAAC
have three distinct addresses. These are called type address codes (TACs). TAC
1 identifies the mailing address of the activity, and TAC 2 identifies the ship-to
address (also known as the freight address). Frequently, a unit’s TAC 2
address is the supply support activity that supports the unit. TAC 3 identifies
the billing address for the activity. The three TAC addresses for a given DODAAC
are contained in what is known as the DOD Activity Address Directory (DODAAD).
(See DOD 4000.25–8–M, Military Assistance Program Address Directory
(MAPAD) System, for an explanation of the TAC codes.) Before deploying, a unit
should contact its DODAAD central service point to ensure that its DODAAC is
updated with its deployment address. After-action reports following conflicts
repeatedly have shown that many units failed to receive supplies on time because
their TAC 1 or TAC 2 addresses did not reflect their deployed locations.
The three-character RIC serves several purposes. It designates the source of
supply, routes transaction messages to the appropriate activity’s computer
system, and identifies the shipper who will be transporting the item of supply.
Many activities have both a DODAAC and a RIC. DOD 4000.25–1–S1, MILSTRIP
[Military Standard Requisition and Issue Procedures] Routing Identifier and Distribution
Codes, contains a comprehensive listing of RICs.
DICs, DODAACs, and RICs continue to be standard components of DOD logistics information
systems, programs, and procedures. These information systems initially were called
the Military Standard Logistics System (MILS). As information technology advanced,
MILS transitioned to the Defense Logistics Standard System (DLSS), which is now
in the process of transitioning
to the Defense Logistics Management System (DLMS). These systems monitor the
DODAAD, the MAPAD, the MILSTRIP, Military Standard Transaction Reporting and
Accounting Procedures, the Military Standard Billing System, the Military Standard
Contract Administration Procedures, the International Logistics Community System,
and the DOD Logistics Data Element Standardization and Management Program.
The Defense Automatic Addressing System (DAAS) is the name given to the key information-processing
computers that support over 80 million DLSS and DLMS transactions per week. DAAS
is managed by the Defense Automatic Addressing System Center (DAASC). The center
oversees two operating locations that function 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
DAAS is the critical logistics information processing hub for the entire DOD.
In effect, it is the gateway for all DOD-related logistics information. Each
of the two sites provides backup support to the other. Almost all automated supply
transactions and some transportation transactions make their way to one or both
of the DAASC sites, where they are edited and then routed to the correct activity.
The vast majority of U.S. military supply requisitions, regardless of their originating
locations, are routed through DAAS.
According to DOD 4140.1–R, DOD Supply Chain Materiel Management Regulation,
Section C220.127.116.11.7, “The Defense Automatic Addressing System Center (DAASC)
shall provide conversion services (DLMS to DLSS and DLSS to DLMS) until all DOD
components have implemented approved commercial standards and business processes
and these corporate conversion services are no longer needed.” Further,
Section C18.104.22.168.10 states, “ . . . the DOD components shall use the corporate
services the DLMSO [Defense Logistics Management Standards Office] and the DAASC
provide for all logistics business system processing . . . .” Finally,
Section C22.214.171.124.8. states—
The DAASC is designated as the corporate community service provider for DLMS.
In this capacity, the DAASC shall provide telecommunications support, archiving
and storage, translation services, ASC [Accredited Standards Committee] X12/DLSS
conversion processes, and other services to support DOD component supply chain
management systems and DLMS implementation.
DAAS integrates logistics information and telecommunications methods into a single
automated information computer system. It is a near real-time, transaction-oriented
system with direct interfaces with both private and commercial communications
networks. It is designed to receive, validate, process, and deliver all logistics
transactions that are computer readable and authorized for transmission by the
customer. The two DAASC sites have fully redundant connectivity to private and
commercial communications networks to ensure that there is no single point of
failure for mission critical processes.
Each time a commercial or military shipper delivers an item of supply, the transaction
record is routed through DAAS. The advantages of using DAAS as an information
hub are profound. DAAS provides the military services with a single entry point
into the DOD logistics supply system. It simplifies communication by permitting
customer units to batch different types of transactions into one message, even
though these messages eventually will be routed to different locations. Whenever
DAAS receives a message with multiple transactions, it breaks down the composite
message into individual transactions and routes each transaction to the appropriate
DAAS also edits transactions to ensure that they contain
the correct data elements, such as source-of-supply codes,
project codes, DODAACs, and RICs, as prescribed
by DOD and service or agency business rules. Whenever possible, DAAS adjusts,
in real time, incorrect or outdated information to ensure that logistics transactions
are forwarded to the appropriate activities. If necessary, DAAS sends a failed
transaction back to the originator, along with a message describing the related
DAAS is designed to effectively use the communication services provided by
the Defense Logistics Agency’s Enterprise Telecommunications Network (ETN),
the Internet, dedicated circuits, and direct-dial commercial networks. DAAS uses
these services to receive and transmit logistics transactions and to provide
a variety of logistics-related services to its worldwide customer base.
Besides receiving, editing, and transmitting logistics information for the
customer to the intended activity, DAAS also makes mirror images of an average
million transactions monthly and transmits them to interested stakeholders,
such as the Army’s Logistics Intelligence File (a subordinate function of the
Logistics Integrated Data Base), DOD’s Joint Total Asset Visibility (JTAV)
system, the U.S. Transportation Command’s Global Transportation Network,
the Air Force Materiel Command’s TRACKER system, and the Defense Finance
and Accounting Service. With DAAS, logisticians can track the life cycle of a
requisition through the Logistics Information Network and the Web Visual Logistics
Information Processing System.
DAAS also serves as the DOD repository for logistics-related information, including
DODAACs; military RICs; the Plain Language Address Directory, which is used
to route military message traffic; transportation account codes, which are
by the Defense Transportation System; type address codes; distribution codes,
which are used to identify requisition-monitoring activity; and DOD fund codes.
DAAS also serves as the authoritative source for end-to-end performance metrics
associated with DOD logistics, including logistics response time and customer
wait time reports. The DAAS repository
has an archive
of all files and transactions
that it has processed since June 1994, which is a valuable information source
for conducting logistics analyses.
The DAASC also collects transportation data. It receives over 250,000 motor-carrier
shipment status transactions each week from the numerous commercial shipping
companies that support DOD. It also maintains and administers the DOD Activity
Address File, which contains the standard point location codes (SPLCs) published
by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. SPLCs are nine-digit numbers
that identify the specific origin or destination location of freight. The Army’s
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is requiredto maintain
a DODAAC-to-SPLC cross-reference file. In its role as the DOD information gatekeeper,
DAASC obtains and reviews the critical data elements that ensure accuracy in
the Defense Transportation Payment Program.
Another major benefit of DAASC is the fact that it facilitates network protocol
interoperability. When users communicate with DAAS using their internal communications
protocols, DAASC translates these protocols so they can be delivered to and received
by the ultimate destinations. For example, if originators send extensible markup
language data using the file transfer protocol, but the destination requires
delivery using X12 and MQSeries-type protocols (messaging middleware from IBM),
DAASC has the capability to overcome these differences.
DAAS is central to the DOD efforts to foster
electronic data interchange (EDI). With the advent of the Internet
improvements in telecommunications, electronic
commerce has increased exponentially. Business-to-business transactions and
business-to-government transactions, which once were completed
painstakingly in a handwritten or keypunched
format, now are being processed by computers and passed between the interested
parties over the Internet using EDI.
EDI is the computer-to-computer exchange of business data in standard formats.
In EDI, information is organized according to a specified format agreed upon
by two parties, thereby permitting both to conduct a computer-to-computer
transaction that requires no human intervention or keypunching on either
end. When EDI
is used throughout a supply chain by all vendors, suppliers, and contractors,
cost savings and efficiencies result. The focus of EDI is on business data
that are structured for exchange among trading partners, including procurement,
logistics, and financial data. EDI’s standard format is application
neutral, which allows data to be extracted and read into a variety of application
for further analysis and reporting.
ASC X12 and UN/EDIFACT
To exploit fully the power of digitization, private
businesses and governments throughout the world have established
that provide guidelines
on standardizing the formats and procedures for exchanging logistics-related
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is one such organization.
In 1979, ANSI chartered the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 to
develop uniform standards for EDI. On the global level,
the United Nations Electronic
Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (UN/EDIFACT)
was established to serve a similar purpose.
Many of the standards promulgated by ASC X12 are incorporated by UN/EDIFACT;
the latter adopts the international EDI standards that are designed to
meet the needs of both the governments and private industries. As the key
organization for advancing electronic data interchange, ASC X12 develops,
the EDI standards for the United States. According to the ASC X12 Web site,
of organizations representing . . . Fortune 500, small and mid-sized companies,
industry associations, and government agencies participate in ASC X12. More
than 300,000 companies worldwide use the X12 electronic data interchange
in daily business transactions.”
A clear distinction must be made between standardized formats and the means
to transmit and receive them. The EDI standards and the tele- communication
methods of transporting the standard data formats are two separate entities.
formats can be exchanged over any electronic messaging service. The X12
and UN/EDIFACT standards specify only the format and data content of e-business
They do not define how users will establish the required communications
needed to exchange EDI data. Users may choose any EDI and communications
software that support the use of the standards. One of the many advantages
of DAAS is
that it facilitates the use of a variety of telecommunication methods in
both DOD and the commercial sector.
Today, EDI data are moving over many types of electronic messaging services,
including the Internet, which makes it easy to implement EDI at minimal
cost using many commercial off-the-shelf application tools. Data can be
over the Internet to DAAS by DOD users and commercial providers.
Routine business documents that once were completed by hand, printed on
paper, and stored in steel file cabinets now are captured electronically
automatically on computers in what are called transaction sets. ASC X12
has published over 300 different transaction sets that can be used to
record a wide variety of electronic commerce transactions. Many of them
are applicable to DOD. Each transaction set can be identified by a brief
and a three-digit code. Here are
a few examples—
104 Air Shipment Information.
109 Vessel Content Details.
309 Customs Manifest.
310 Freight Receipt and Invoice (Ocean).
850 Purchase Order.
869 Order Status Inquiry.
870 Order Status Report.
Transaction sets can be broken down into data segments that can be divided
further into data elements. An ASC X12 data element dictionary specifies
the name, description,
type, and minimum and maximum lengths for each data element. Data elements
contain such basic information as an item’s price, product code, size,
and color. ASC X12 transaction sets standardize e-commerce data and, at the
same time, permit
a wide range of telecommunications methods to transmit the standardized data.
Extensible Markup Language
One way to transmit ASC X12 transaction sets is through the use of extensible
markup language (XML), a relatively new Web language that was developed
specifically for electronic business. Structured data can be sent over
the Internet and
processed using a computer. This is a significant improvement over hypertext
(HTML), which can display text and images but cannot process them. XML
allows data to be processed with software applications such as the Joint
Planning and Execution System, the Global Transportation Network, and JTAV.
XML is an evolving technology that is particularly well suited for Web-based,
computer-interface applications that require some human entry of information.
On the downside, XML is bandwidth intensive; therefore, transmitting ASC
X12 transaction sets is generally better suited for computer-to-computer
DAAS supports translation services among X12, XML, and MILS. While use
of standards is preferred, the DAASC also supports user-defined files (UDF).
if data that originate as a MILS transaction are required to be in an X12
transaction format at the receiving destination, DAAS provides the required
Transition from DLSS to DLMS
The Defense Logistics Agency, the parent organization of DAASC, is in the
process of upgrading its legacy automated information systems using a program
Business Systems Modernization (BSM). Commercial off-the-shelf software
programs and private industry methods are key components of BSM. The transition
the DLSS to DLMS is part of this process. DLMS readily accepts and processes
transactions, many of which make use of variable-length data elements.
The constraints of the fixed-length, 80-column card formats will soon be
Defense Logistics Management System Manual, describes DLMS like this—
The DLMS contains a broad base of business rules, to include uniform policies,
procedures, time standards, transactions, and data management,
designed to meet DOD’s requirements for total logistics support. The DLMS
is founded upon ANSI ASC X12 EDI and will be expanded to support emerging Electronic
Business/Electronic Commerce (EB/EC) capabilities such as: data sharing, automated
identification technology, object-oriented user interfaces, electronic malls,
web-based technology, and electronic funds transfer, as appropriate . . . . It
provides standard procedures and data formats to link the various component organizational
elements of the Defense Logistics community, including inventory control points
(ICPs), distribution depots, maintenance depots, transportation nodes, and end
users in posts, camps, stations, and ships with deployed units. The DLMS not
only addresses the different functional processes of logistics, but also provides
standards for interchange of data across the military services, defense agencies,
other Federal agencies, foreign national governments, international government
organizations, and with nongovernment participants. As other EB or EC methods
emerge, DLMS will incorporate these new capabilities into the Department’s
logistics business processes as appropriate.
The transformation of information processing methods continues to gather
momentum. DOD is continually updating its procedures to shift from DOD-unique
data exchange standards to ASC X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards while incorporating
the widely available Internet language of XML. The advantages of transforming
logistics information exchange have been, and will continue to be, profound.
Lieutenant Colonel James C. Bates,
USA (Ret.), works for Alion Science and Technology and
as a sustainment planner
for the U.S. Joint Forces Command, J–9 Transformation,
Distributed Continuous Experimentation Environment, in Suffolk,
Virginia. He is a Certified Professional Logistician and a
graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and
holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of Hawaii. He can
be contacted by email at James.Bates@je.jfcom.mil.
The author wishes to thank William Strickler and other professionals at the
Defense Automatic Addressing System Center for their valuable assistance in
writing this article.